Shahi paneer, flowing alcohol, bhangra music, a loud DJ and hundreds of strangers: sounds like a North Indian wedding, right? Well, it wasn’t. It was actually a cricket match.
When a colleague and I pushed through the crowd at Ferozshah Kotla, holding on to our Rs 12,000 Corporate Box passes for dear life, neither of us knew what to expect. We were worried it may be a closed box, air-conditioned and sterile; what else could cost that much?
Thankfully, the ‘box’ was actually a balcony overlooking the stadium. Prime seats indeed. I could see the ball get whacked around by Sachin (Tendulkar) and follow the ‘10’ on his shirt everywhere he went. Each box had 30 seats and at the entrance was a room stocked with drinks, food and smiling caterers.
There were peanuts, chips, colas and beer on the house, and while most of us were too engrossed in the match to go for seconds, there were some who stood by the bar all evening. Around a quarter to nine, dinner was served — shaadi ka khaana, complete with a slightly chilly chicken curry. Add to that the DJ’s choice of Bollywood music, and it’s a miracle people in our box weren’t dancing merry. Which is not to say that it wasn’t fun. Placed on every seat was Delhi Daredevils memorabilia — a fan band, a banner, balloons, whistles — everything you need to hoot loud and clear.
Catch chhod de, chhod de... abbey chhod… chhod diya, oh lovely!” screamed a young Delhi Daredevils fan sitting next to me as a Mumbai Indians fielder dropped Virender Sehwag’s catch.
Elsewhere, a row of spectators broke into “Dilli lene aaye hain hum, dilli leke jaayenge.” This was the action that filled the Rs 300 ticket stall we were sitting in. Level 3 of the Ferozshah Kotla stadium erupted with chants of ‘Jai Mata Di’ every time a player hit a six, while a Mumbai Indians’ supporter tied a handkerchief around his finger, started swinging it around and yelled, ‘Mumbai meri jaan’.
Everyone turned to face the traitor and one loyal fan stopped between swinging his hips to Twist (from Love Aaj Kal), turned around and screamed, “Abhi Sehwag ka chhakka aake tere sar pe girega,” and thus started a war of words between the two, that went on till the end of the match.
Fours were celebrated with pairi painas (touching the feet), sixes with loud screams and wickets with “tata, bye bye”. Overpriced patties, cokes, ice candies and muffins were being circulated between rows of spectators, and most choked as they tried to chew and cheer at the same time. Two wickets fell in a row and a guy screamed, “Itna rape toh Delhi ka kabhi nahi hua!”
As the crowd thinned, the policemen also grabbed boxes of food reserved for them and started eating. A few, who had come after guzzling cheap whisky in anticipation of Delhi’s victory were hurling abuses by the end.